Two weeks ago, Bayern Munich’s head coach, Carlo Ancelotti, was sacked following a humbling defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Group stage. This decision came amidst news that Ancelotti’s take on training sessions was too lax and that five senior players had voiced their concerns with the way Bayern was heading.
Nevertheless, Bayern president Uli Hoeness was quick to reinstate veteran manager Josef “Jupp” Heynckes. Heynckes, who came out of retirement to take the mantle of Bayern’s head coach, will be back with Bayern for his fourth stint.
Bayern is still a team in transition, with some of the best players—namely goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and midfielder Franck Ribery—out with injuries, and others not playing at their best, being disheartened with the season so far. However, Heynckes has hit the ground running these past two weeks.
Training sessions have returned to the usual approach, and players and staff have both emphasized that the club atmosphere is slowly returning to what it used to be.
The revival of the team was quite apparent with Heynckes’ first game this Saturday, against SC Freiburg, where Bayern won with a bold five-to-zero.
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) October 15, 2017
The logistics of the game itself were reminiscent of Bayern’s earlier seasons under Heynckes. He re-adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation for the starting XI, without any baffling selections. For instance, Heynckes spoke earlier this week about using Javi Martinez as a defensive midfielder again; this placement was quite instrumental in securing Thiago Alcantara’s nimble shot to the bottom right corner of the goal, bringing the score up to three-zero.
Also up was defender David Alaba. Alaba, who was suffering from an ankle injury earlier this season, instead reminded fans of the player they had seen flourishing under Heynckes in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. He and Kingsley Coman were virtually unstoppable on the left side of the pitch, interfering Freiburg play with 193 touches over the course of the match.
Heynckes was very satisfied with Bayern’s performance on Saturday, but he stresses that it is more important to leverage this game for future performances. According to him, “We can definitely build on this win but we shouldn’t overstate this 5-0 win. We still have a lot of work to do…”
Most of this work is easing out the sore spots left by Neuer’s and Ribery’s absences, and by making a smooth transition into the upcoming half of the Bundesliga. The other part of this work lies with the senior players of Bayern. Serving as an inspiration for the rest of the team, experienced footballers like Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, and Robert Lewandowski have the special task of aiding Heynckes in rejuvenating Bayern spirit. As Heynckes said, “Some players need to take more responsibility, first of all with performances, but also how they interact with the team.”
Heynckes has a lot of expectation tied to him. This first match with SC Freiburg was a very strong start, but, as he himself mentioned, there is a lot of work to do. Bayern is second in the Bundesliga and second in Group B of the Champions League. While this is not bad at all, the team can now get over the rough patch that was the first half of this season and truly fulfill the standards they and their fans have set out for them.